Dr. Michael Heublum - MD

Motion Sickness

On average, 1 in 3 people are susceptible to motion sickness. This can make it difficult to travel or experience some forms of entertainment. This page describes known symptoms, causes, methods of diagnosis, and treatments for the condition.

Symptoms of Motion Sickness

Most people experiencing motion sickness feel sensations of nausea and disorientation. This may lead to vomiting and difficulty maintaining balance. Some cases may display a cold sweat, dizziness, and/or headaches.


Motion sickness results when signals from a person’s senses, such as their eyes and inner ears, send conflicting signals to the brain. Feeling the sensation of movement in a car while reading a book can cause motion sickness because the eyes are focused on something stationary, rather than watching the motion through the window. Similarly, sitting still while watching motion on a movie screen or a virtual reality headset can cause motion sickness because the eyes perceive motion while the body does not.

Motion sickness isn’t known to be hereditary, but it is stated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine that it may be partly genetic, resulting from variations in a large number of different genes.



Motion sickness can often be self-diagnosed. It is most common in children between the ages of two and twelve years old.

People experiencing motion sickness may complain of any of the symptoms discussed previously, including nausea, dizziness, disorientation, vomiting, lack of balance, cold sweats, and headaches. They may also externally display paleness.

Prevention for Motion Sickness 


Planning ahead can make it possible to avoid motion sickness altogether, or at least mitigate its effects. When travelling, requesting a window seat allows one’s eyes to visually observe the motion their body is feeling. If travelling in a car or a similar vehicle, opening a window and letting air circulate can also help create a unified sensation of motion that is less likely to cause motion sickness.

Treatments for Motion Sickness 

Motion sickness can be avoided and passes naturally with time, but it is common to treat it if travel or other circumstances make it unavoidable.

Treatments include medications such as scopolamine or dimenhydrinate. These are usually marketed under names like Dramamine and Gravol.

Most medications are only intended to prevent symptoms that haven’t happened yet, so it is important to administer them in situations where motion sickness is a known risk in the future.

They are also known to cause drowsiness, so heavy machinery should not be operated while medicated for motion sickness. Virtual Reality rehab is an effective method without the use of medications.

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